I saw Bruno this weekend, and while I laughed uproariously, I have to agree with Double X's Jessica Grose that the film was "deeply mean-spirited." Indeed, I spent a considerable portion of the movie turned away from the screen with my face in my hands, so difficult was it to watch a series of hapless stage mothers, B-list celebrities, and Southerners unwittingly humiliated on screen. That's not to say Bruno does nothing productive to expose homophobia. Two of the best scenes were the ones in which Bruno meets with "ex-gay" "therapists." The second of these men, who specializes in especially difficult cases, suggests to Sacha Baron Cohen — whom he believes is an Austrian fashion personality — that although women are "annoying," "we need them," and that he should allow women he finds "tolerable" to seduce him.
Yet because I was familiar with Baron Cohen's shtick from his previous film, Borat, what most shocked me about Bruno wasn't its exploitation of regular people, but its overt focus on the deviance of gay sex. Every single one of Bruno's sexual encounters is a sado-masochistic kink-fest. A running gag is an exercise bike outfitted with a thrusting dildo; when the bike is pedaled, the dildo, er…you get the idea. A sequence toward the beginning of the film features Bruno and his boyfriend putting all kinds of ridiculous objects in body cavities where they don't belong. In another scene, Bruno and a lover chain themselves together and can't find the key. The result is an audience groaning, "Ewwwww," during all of the sex scenes. And while a scene at a swingers party highlights that straight people can be awfully bizarre, too, it's a bad, old stereotype to present gay sex as particularly icky.
I mean, I get the joke. Bruno is an over-the-top farce. But a lot of folks seeing this film are going to come out of it thinking to themselves, "Wow, gay sex is GROSS!" And that's unfortunate.
cross-posted at TAPPED